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Indigenous leaders in northern Ontario renewed calls, alongside the federal NDP, for a national strategy for suicide prevention. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) Canada needs a national initiative aimed at preventing suicides, say Indigenous leaders representing dozens of First Nations across northern Ontario.

The renewed call comes in the wake of New Democrat MPP Sol Mamakwa rising in the Ontario legislature and speaking about a 13-year-old girl in Bearskin Lake First Nation who took her own life on Sept. 19. Mamakwa called the issue of Indigenous youth suicides a "pandemic."

Those calls were echoed by the leadership of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and the federal NDP on Sunday after a meeting in Thunder Bay between NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, New Democrat MP Charlie Angus and Mamakwa. The Nishnawbe Aski Nation represents 49 First Nations across northern Ontario. ‘This is a health crisis’- Ontario MPP calls for action after Bearskin Lake youth suicide

"We’ve been at this for so long now, the losses continue to happen," Fiddler said at a press conference after the meeting. "Families continue to suffer."

What NAN wants, Fiddler said, is a "comprehensive strategy on suicide prevention," led by the federal government but working hand-in-hand with the provinces and Indigenous leaders.

"All of us should be at a table to have this discussion and to work towards a plan that our communities can be a part of in developing some of these solutions." Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler met in Thunder Bay with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. The two said they talked about a number of issues, including an ongoing crisis over suicides in Indigenous communities. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC) Officials with NAN say its communities have reported close to 600 suicides since the mid-1980s, with about 90 of those deaths among youth aged 10 to 14. However, a spokesperson told CBC News in an email that the actual numbers are likely higher.

2017 was the worst year on record, officials added, with 38 reported suicides. 12 have been confirmed so far in 2018.

Angus and the NDP began a campaign in May for a national suicide prevention strategy, which would include Canada-wide guidelines for training frontline workers as well as components that promise to be culturally-appropriate. In 2011, when in opposition, the federal Liberals also pushed for a similar initiative, citing the need to have a coordinated response to a "stigmatized" and "silent problem."

On Sunday, Angus said the NDP will bring a motion to the House of Commons in November that will call on the federal government to "come to the table to be part of a national suicide action strategy."

"It can’t be just an overall framework; this is an emergency, we have young people dying." Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says the NDP intends to table a motion in Parliament in November, calling on Ottawa to establish a national suicide prevention strategy. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC) A strategy wouldn’t just help First Nations, Angus said, as "horrific hotspots" of suicides are happening in "all manner of cultural groups, age groups, urban, rural [and] Indigenous [communities]."

"We are building alliances right now with the grassroots organizations who are coming up with the solutions," he continued. "The only thing that’s missing right now is the federal government." More improvements needed

Even though suicides are not exclusive to Indigenous communities, First Nations leaders have long been calling for other improvements to basic social infrastructure on-reserve — like clean water, adequate housing, as well as access to healthcare, education and fresh food — as crucial to helping prevent crises from repeating.

A number of Indigenous communities, including several in […]

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